Dozens of graduating students walked out during Vice President Mike Pence's commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday, according to video reports posted on social networks. When Pence was called to the stage Saturday morning, over 50 of the new alumni walked out in protest. The students cited the Vice President’s history of anti-LGBTQ actions including the passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 2015, which some say legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people and families.
A small crowd of protesters also gathered at the university’s main entrance.
MSM never turned cameras to show Trump rally crowds - yet no issue doing it for walkout during Pence's commencement speech at Notre Dame. pic.twitter.com/W0X0ODHOOJ— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) May 21, 2017
We Stand For, a coalition of students at Notre Dame, Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s College, posted videos of the protest on Facebook and Twitter. The group says it stands up “for human dignity, respect and justice.”
GLAAD, a group representing those in the LGBTQ community, applauded the men and woman who protested.
“Graduates around the country deserve commencement speakers who inspire them to propel our diverse country forward, and these Notre Dame students bravely told the world that Vice President Pence’s anti-LGBTQ actions fly in the face of unity and inspiration,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “These Notre Dame graduates should be applauded for demonstrating true leadership and standing up for freedom and acceptance.”
Meanwhile, Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne said school officials would only intervene if the protest “seriously disrupted” the commencement or put anyone’s safety at risk.
"It's deeply humbling for me to participate in the 172nd commencement in Notre Dame's 175th year," Pence said to applause and boos, according to WNDU. Even prior to his speech, many students had announced plans to walk out in opposition to Trump administration's policies.
In his address, the VP touted President Trump's recent executive order on religious freedom in his address to the Catholic university, as well as Trump's remarks on religion in Saudi Arabia. Ironically, Pence also took aim at political correctness on college campuses, saying it was "wholly outside of the American tradition." It was just the signal dozens of graduating seniors needed to demonstrative walk out of their own graduation.
Prior to Pence's address, valedictorian C.J. Pine gave a politically charged address in which he called for equal rights and religious freedom for Muslims and all faiths The Hill reported. "Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims," he said. Pine also appeared to take aim at Trump's plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“If we are going to build walls between American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence," Pine said.
Taking a more conciliatory tone, Father John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, called for peace and dialogue. "Too often the love that fires our passion is twisted into a hatred in which we disagree," Jenkins said.